Fall Tour 2021

Noerenberg Farm and Gardens

Saturday, October 16, 2021
2865 North Shore Drive, Orono
9:30-11:30 a.m.

In a secluded cove on a quiet bay, a barn in a 58-acre wooded setting rises majestically above the water. This image might not be particularly surprising if it were not located on Lake Minnetonka, one of the state’s most popular lakes where homes crowd the shoreline and an undeveloped parcel of land is rare.

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Noerenberg Family, ca. 1900. Photo: courtesy Three Rivers Park District

The barn was part of the farm on the former Noerenberg estate, now operated by Three Rivers Park District and known as Noerenberg Gardens. The public may visit the gardens, which are located on a 16-acre parcel overlooking Crystal Bay. But the barn and land associated with the farm, which overlook Maxwell Bay, are separated from the gardens by North Shore Drive and are rarely open to the public.

Frederick and Johanna Noerenberg purchased the property on Lake Minnetonka in 1892. They built a Queen Anne style house (no longer extant), a carriage house, a pump house, and a combination boat house/gazebo, which was rebuilt in an exotic Oriental style following a trip to Japan in 1907. Throughout the years the property was known for its elaborate gardens. The Noerenbergs also developed the farm, which included the barn, a water tower, and a number of other buildings as well as pastures, cultivated fields, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. The Noerenberg children continued living on the property after the death of their parents. When Lora Noerenberg Hoppe died in 1972 she bequeathed the estate to the public as a memorial to her parents.

The MNSAH tour will begin with the Noerenberg farm and the high-style barn, which features Palladian windows and classical details. Built in 1912, it is likely the barn was designed by Christopher Boehme, who, along with his partner Victor Cordella, designed the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Boehme was handling other design work for Frederick Noerenberg at the same time the barn was built and is therefore the likely architect. In addition to its elaborate architecture, the barn included innovative interior features that provided for the comfort of the farm animals.

The tour will continue on the south side of the property where Three Rivers Park District continues the tradition of the elaborate gardens established by the Noerenbergs. The overall original landscape design of the estate is also notable. Circulation patterns and the areas devoted to gardens and domestic and recreational activities are still evident. There are also specimen trees and plants collected by the Noerenbergs that still exist as well as other landscape features.

The guide for the fall tour will be MNSAH president Rolf Anderson who prepared the National Register of Historic Places Nomination for the barn. He will be assisted by staff from Three Rivers Park District who will also discuss their efforts to preserve the Noerenberg property. A park horticulturist will discuss the gardens.

The tour will be largely outdoors so please dress appropriately in case of inclement weather. Participants will be able to remain socially distanced.

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